Seven state prisons, camps and work release facilities will close to save money as New York's inmate population declines, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.
The list includes four minimum-security facilities for men: Buffalo Work Release in Erie County, Camp Georgetown in Madison County, Summit Shock in Schoharie County and Fulton Work Release in the Bronx.
Three medium-security prisons closing are Arthur Kill on Staten Island, Mid-Orange in Orange County and the Oneida Correctional Facility in Oneida County.
According to the governor's office, they will close in 60 days, eliminating approximately 3,800 unused prison beds and saving the state $72 million this year and $112 million next year. Remaining inmates will be transferred. New York's prison population has declined since 1999 from 71,600 to about 56,000.
"The state's prison system has been too inefficient and too costly with far more capacity than what is needed to secure the state's inmate population and ensure the public's safety," Cuomo said. Affected communities will be able to request economic development assistance from a $50 million state fund as well as additional tax credits, he said.
Total employment of 1,531 at the seven facilities includes 1,108 security personnel and 423 civilians, said Peter Cutler, spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services. There will be opportunities to transfer to the 60 remaining prison facilities based on seniority, he said.
The inmate decline follows a 25 percent statewide drop in crime over the past decade and revisions in sentencing laws that allow earlier releases and alternative programs for nonviolent drug offenders. The number of prisoners in medium-security prisons declined almost 20 percent from 2001 to 2010 while those in minimum-security facilities dropped 57 percent.
Maximum-security inmate populations declined only 2 percent in a decade to 24,822 last year. The closings list included no maximum-security prisons, despite speculation that Ossining's Sing Sing along the Amtrak and commuter train tracks in the lower Hudson Valley provided a lucrative sales option.
The 23,000-member union representing prison guards said it was disappointed by the largest prison cuts in state history and that any closing jeopardizes safety and the integrity of the system.
"While our minimum- and medium-security prisons have seen a reduction in inmates, our maximum-security prisons, which hold the most dangerous and hardened criminals, remain at 122 percent of capacity that they were designed to hold," said Donn Rowe, president of the New York State Corrections Officers and Police Benevolent Association.